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Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

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Is There a Plan B for the Lane County Courthouse?

May 18th, 2019 by dk
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I’m hesitant to bring up the topic, but a fair question deserves a fair hearing, even if it cannot always receive a fair answer. If Lane County’s Measure 20-299 fails next week, what’s Plan B?

Superstitions grow around ballot measures. Backup plans are believed to convey weakness or fear. Leaders try to keep things clear for voters — up or down, yes or no. That may be smart politically, but it’s not how any of us make real choices in life. Politics seldom resembles real life, but both might be better if it did.

The county is presenting its $154 million bond measure to voters as a bargain. The bond will go into effect only if state and federal sources add almost another $100 million to the project.

Initial polling showed the measure could pass in May, if voters were well informed about the current need and the financial benefits involved for the county. That polling was done before Eugene 4J schools decided to hurry its serial levy onto the May ballot.

The county has made two arguments in favor of the project. First, the local money will be leveraged with other sources to get us a better courthouse than our dollars alone would buy. Second, the current courthouse is showing its age, lacking many safety measures we expect in modern public buildings.

Those might be good arguments, but who is making them? There have been op-ed essays and letters to the editor, usually from local politicos and civic leaders. But will those messages reach people who don’t read newspapers?

I’ve seen no lawn signs. No public rallies. No waving supporters at busy intersections. No media events designed to highlight the need. Direct mail flyers and Voters Pamphlet support may not suffice.

The arguments on the other side, as expressed in the public forums, are more visceral, more personal, and usually more impassioned. Two broad themes have emerged.

First, there’s a skepticism that county planners have economized on the project in every way possible. Second, people complain — sometimes with heartfelt honesty — that they can barely make ends meet and wish county leaders felt the same pinch.

If voters turn down Measure 20-299, will Salem legislators feel less obligated to approve state funding that has been all-but-promised? Will other counties try to get their building projects fast-tracked ahead of ours? Or will the state make its $94 million contribution contingent on Lane County voters approving a modified bond in the fall?

If so, will voters resent being asked twice about funding the same project? Voters don’t usually like do-overs. If the county scales back the project the second time around, will voters ask why leaders didn’t trim the project sooner?

If there’s a Plan B, it’s not being talked about very openly. If the bond measure fails next Tuesday, some will say I jinxed it by asking these questions out loud. Superstition should not be the order of the day. Some leaders don’t like to hear their strategies questioned. But, worse than that, some don’t want to be accused of having any strategy at all.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Privacy Protections Will Lead to More Surveillance

May 18th, 2019 by dk
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I like privacy as much as the next guy — just not quite as much as the guy who comes after that. For better or for worse, that guy is often a courtroom judge who thinks about the next thing, but not the thing after that. Curbside recycling and on-street parking may have to change to comply with recent judicial rulings. The court decisions could lead to more surveillance, not less.

Last week, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that government authorities may not sort through our trash, even after we’ve left it on the public street for haulers to carry away. Police suspected a couple in Lebanon of producing methamphetamine, so they asked trash haulers — without a search warrant — to set aside their trash for criminal investigation.

Police found incriminating evidence in the trash, and the couple was convicted. But Oregon’s top judges ruled that the deal between police and the hauler was an invasion of privacy. According to a 6-1 majority, no one should be allowed to rummage through our lid-covered trash bins without a search warrant.

Do you feel safer? Enjoy it while it lasts, because our recycling efforts will now get more difficult. Since lid-covered bins at the curb now carry a presumption of privacy, we’ll be unable to detect which households are not following current recycling rules. Entire truckloads of fouled recyclables will be redirected to the dump.

Who is still attempting to recycle grease-stained pizza boxes, or tissue paper, or unrinsed dog food cans? Who is guilty of mixing compost with metal and paper, or not noting the category number on plastics? We won’t know, and we can’t know. Their ignorance is now a matter of personal privacy.

Over time, this may doom commingled recycling in Oregon. Recyclers will host more centralized roundups, where they can scrutinize each arrival from each household before accepting it. Is this the future we see for ourselves in Oregon? The Oregon Supreme Court has set us on that path.

While Oregon judges were redefining the meaning of “thrown out,” Ohio judges were expanding privacies of a different stripe.

A federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled last month that tire-chalking by parking enforcement officials amounts to an unconstitutional search, violating the U.S. Constitution’s 4th amendment. The ruling applies only to Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee, but judicial interpretations sometimes spread to other jurisdictions.

Again, it’s easy to cheer for the little guy, who literally made a federal case out of tire-chalking. Except that what authorities will be forced to do instead will be worse. They may no longer be allowed to mark a vehicle’s tires with chalk, but other methods of surveillance will be allowed that are more intrusive and less obvious.

Photos will be taken of vehicles as they enter and exit a parking space, capturing much more than the tire’s placement on the pavement. License plates and photos of the vehicles’ inhabitants could become useful to authorities for other purposes. All this can be done without a telltale mark on the pavement that tells us we’re being watched.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Duck Women Dominate 3×3 Basketball

May 10th, 2019 by dk
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When you get really good at something, you want to do it as often as you can. How else can you explain how Ruthy Hebard, Sabrina Ionescu, Oti Gildon, and Lydia Giomi spent last weekend in Las Vegas? The Oregon women won the USA Basketball 3×3 National gold medal for the second year in a row.

Last year, four Oregon Ducks proved that team chemistry matters more than individual skill by defeating all comers to represent the United States in the World 3×3 Championship. This year’s team had three of the same players, with Giomi replacing Erin Boley as the fourth.

It’s quite possible that you’ve never heard of 3×3 basketball, but the sport won’t go unnoticed much longer. Its Olympic debut in 2020, for both men and women, will introduce the sport to millions. The simplest way to describe 3×3 is street ball, minus the asphalt.

In almost every other way, the half-court game looks like the pick-up games that happened in your neighborhood and mine, wherever a basketball hoop was installed in a driveway. No coaches, no foul limits, first team to 21 wins. Each team has four players — three on the court and a sub.

The clock stops only for free throws, but the clock hardly matters at all. Both teams race to the magic number of 21 as fast as they can. Shots from behind the traditional 3-point arc are worth two points. All other shots and free throws are worth one point.

High score after 10 minutes wins, if neither side has reached 21 — because Mrs. Delaney won’t invite the neighborhood kids over for ice cream cones if her son Mark doesn’t make it home in time for dinner. (I made up that last part. It could have been added as a rule, except Mrs. Delaney died a couple decades ago.)

The sport is beginning to catch on. Some retired NBA players see it as a way to keep showing off their skills when their knees can no longer endure a traditional basketball game. Hip hop musician Ice Cube and others formed a professional league in 2017, initially limiting it to players 30 years old or older.

Here’s what I love about the game. There’s nothing to watch except the score. No coach planning match-ups or resting players. Players can’t foul out. The clock doesn’t matter, unless the game approaches the 10-minute mark.

Every fan gets a great view, because it’s played on a half court. There’s no break in the action until the game is done. It requires less endurance than a regular basketball game, so it’s a distillation of a team’s collective skill and love for the game. It’s a highlight reel, presented live.

Nobody should have been surprised that the Ruthy and Sabrina Show found another venue where their skill and love would beat all comers. Naturally, Ionescu was chosen the Most Valuable Player for the series for the second year in a row.

Coach Kelly Graves would probably invite Sabrina and her teammates over for ice cream cones, if he thought they needed any extra inspiration.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Housing Affordability Plans Won’t Work; Focus Instead on Civic Pride

May 10th, 2019 by dk
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Eugene cannot remedy its affordable housing shortage for one simple reason. We won’t allow it. The only sure solutions — rent controls or endless subsidies — give government more control than we will surrender.

If affordability was all that mattered, a simple solution would be obvious. Start storing toxic waste downtown. Cheap housing would appear overnight, along with a few high-paying government jobs for people willing to wear hazmat suits. Simple isn’t always good.

Fortunately, city officials can encourage a broad spectrum of housing options by doing less than they are doing now. Loosening regulations slowly and watching how builders and buyers respond could go a long way toward promoting the sustainable infill that we say we desire.

The question then becomes, “How can we be sure market forces don’t move too quickly, upsetting what current residents value about their neighborhood’s character?” It’s a fair question, but, again, most easy answers invite heavy-handed government controls.

We’re back to the same conundrum. How do we guarantee citizens a wide array of housing choices without giving government officials Soviet-style authority to do the choosing for us?

It seems we have only two choices in this funhouse of residential economics — the roller coaster of market-driven pricing, or the merry-go-round of competing ideals. Either one will make your stomach churn if you can’t step away and clear your head for a while. Ready to try something completely different?

Here it comes: participatory budgeting projects.

These projects can create wonderfully unique points of neighborhood pride. If people want to stay where they are, market forces won’t tempt them to sell to higher bidders. Gentrification slows or stops completely. Neighborhoods become more resilient. I’ve seen it work in Rennes, France’s largest college town.

It could work like this. City leaders devote one-tenth of one percent of its general fund to participatory budgeting projects. That pot of money, $344,000, would be spread across Eugene’s 23 neighborhood association boundaries.

Each neighborhood would receive $15,000. How will residents spend that money to improve local livability and enhance neighborhood character? Proposals would come from residents, and it could be for anything at all.

A panel would vet each proposal, reviewing budget constraints, legal liabilities, and verifying technical qualifications. That’s the extent of government oversight, except to arrange a street fair where each neighborhood chooses which project they want funded.

This is done by giving every resident a bag of beans to be used in the voting. They can give a few beans to every project or they can give all their beans to the one they like best. A simple kitchen scale weighs the results at the end of the fair, and the funded project proceeds.

A neighborhood in Rennes loves its notable birdsong at dusk and dawn, so residents funded a birdhouse, outfitted with a microphone inside and a solar-powered speaker. Now everybody can hear baby birds nesting in the area, reminding residents every day why they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

We want affordability without sacrificing desirability. Each neighborhood has a unique story. Let them tell it. Participatory budgeting projects simply amplify those stories.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Alley Valkyrie: Where is She Now?

May 5th, 2019 by dk
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Alley Valkyrie left Eugene five years ago this week, shortly after the homeless camp Whoville was shuttered and dismantled. Five years can pack plenty of changes into a 30-something’s life, so where is Valkyrie today? She’s living in France with her French musician husband and with her famously irascible cat, Squirrel.

Although our paths never officially crossed during her years in Eugene, I visited her recently in Rennes, France’s largest college town. She and her husband showed me around their adopted town and invited me to their favorite after-hours haunts.

Valkyrie clearly reveled in chatting with somebody whose verbs she could conjugate without effort. She’s learning French quickly, but she still thinks in English. That’s important, because Valkyrie thinks out loud better than most people I’ve ever met. Either that, or she had been saving her thoughts for the next native English speaker and I was the fortunate recipient.

Valkyrie was eking out a living in New York City as a street vendor in 2004, when she met some friendly activists affiliated with Cascadia Forest Defenders. They invited her to come to Oregon and participate in their tree-sit protest in the Willamette National Forest.

After three weeks in the forest, she came into town and stumbled on Saturday Market. She immediately knew two things, but only one of them consciously.

She knew that street vending her art could be easier, surrounded by a collective like Saturday Market. She saw that a few rules kept things organized, allowing a family of sharing and support to grow naturally. Somewhere inside, she also must have known a similar network was needed for Eugene’s homeless population.

Whoville provided that loosely organized system of support. In March, 2014, Valkyrie learned that the camp would be forcibly shut down in early April. She recruited a dozen sympathizers to enter City Manager Jon Ruiz’s office and then refused to leave. That was the bang she went out with. The protesters were arrested, though all charges later were dropped.

Valkyrie never wanted to be the leader and lightning rod she became for the homeless in Eugene. The notoriety and threats were more than her introverted spirit could sustain. “People I once considered friends wouldn’t look me in the eye anymore,” she told me. “I just had to get away.”

She settled in Portland five years ago this week. Two years ago, she moved to the Brittany region of France.

Brittany has always maintained a certain distance from Paris, partly by refusing to squelch its citizens’ separatist urges. The region’s history, culture and language have remained distinct. That suits Valkyrie just fine. Outliers will always be quicker to invite radical thoughts.

She believes the French government may prove to be more supple than America’s. France has had five constitutions and three revolutions over the past two centuries, while America is still working with its original model. She sees a future for herself in France, but there’s just one little problem.

She can’t make any trouble that might hurt her chances of gaining citizenship in a few years, but she won’t stop supporting the causes that animate her.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Individual Exceptionalism Imperils Us All

May 3rd, 2019 by dk
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Our 2019 measles epidemic has passed, so now would be a good time to discuss lottery winners, antibiotics, public retirement funds, vaccinations, gun rights and the Electoral College.

Americans value their individual rights, even when they harm the common good. Each individual is exceptional, and so it follows that every instance of an individual exercising his, her, or their right is likewise exceptional — therefore, not subject to rules that should otherwise apply.

Many state legislatures, including Oregon’s, are struggling to tighten vaccination exemptions, in response to the measles outbreak. Impassioned parents storm state capitols, insisting that their situations must remain exceptional. Maybe they should and maybe they shouldn’t, but the matter must be considered open for discussion.

Alas. discussion itself is a group activity designed for individuals to seek a common understanding — a common good. So you can see why we’ve become so brittle with one another. Anything less than total acceptance of your exceptionalism is proof positive that I haven’t listened. Both sides feel disrespected. All we can agree on at that point is that there has been — in the worst case, there can be — no real discussion.

Microbial bugs cooperate better than we do, and it shows. We’ve been using antibiotics so prolifically that they are losing their effectiveness. We take them to ward off viral infections, although they will do no good. Lazy doctors and suffering patients insisted for decades that taking an antibiotic would do no harm.

Now we see that’s not true. Bacteria have mutated to overcome the antibiotic, evolving into several “superbug” strains that are immune to our medicines. Humanity is falling behind, because humans are not sticking together.

Instead, we’re racing in the opposite direction. Oregon and other states are considering new rules that will favor the individual over the collective. Lottery winners may soon be able to keep their windfall hidden from shysters, neighbors and family. States typically give winners a full year to claim their prize. If that year of anonymity doesn’t provide ample protection, the instant millionaires could pay for whatever extra help they need.

Speaking of windfalls, public retirement plans in many blue states — Oregon included — threaten to bankrupt state budgets, except that bankruptcy may not protect something as large as a state. It may not be allowed.

When government funding becomes untenable, society begins to fray on its edges, and gun rights become frightfully relevant to individuals determined to assert their rights.

We can only hope for leaders who will lead us out of the hole we’re digging for ourselves. Those leaders must speak to us as a single, whole, united nation. Instead, we encourage those who will pander to our worried individual selves.

Will we find a leader who can unify us? It’s less likely if we abandon the localism embedded in the Electoral College. Choosing a president by popular vote may sound good. Each individual vote would count equally, but there will be less whole that can become greater than the sum of its parts.

The measles epidemic has passed, but not its underlying cause.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Brexit Needs STAR Voting

April 26th, 2019 by dk
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It’s a shame that Mark Frohnmayer is busy designing affordable electric vehicles and working with others to repurpose EWEB’s steam plant, because Britain could use the voting innovation he champions. Democracy has been hacked, and the former software entrepreneur’s STAR Voting model could hack it back,

As soon as United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May approached opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, a new set of possible solutions to the Brexit imbroglio emerged. May’s Conservative Party wants out of the European Union — lock, stock, and tariff-free barrel. Corbyn’s liberal cohorts in the Labour Party see Brexit as an overly simple solution to a problem that’s only gotten more complicated since voters approved it in 2016.

Almost three years after the first referendum, every citizen in the United Kingdom has an opinion about what should be done. Just about the only path forward that could be acceptable to May, Corbyn, and the leaders of the European Union would be a second referendum.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, a second referendum would resemble Brexit itself in this important respect. Another vote sounds simple, until you begin to implement it.

Politicians are wary to ask the same question a second time. Nobody wants to be accused of not heeding the voters’ original decision. But asking every citizen to endorse or reject the agreement forged by May and the EU would be equally unattractive.

Dig into any complex document deeply enough, and everyone will find something to dislike. We’ve seen this already inside the British Parliament, and that’s among people who didn’t have to quit their day job to study the 585-page document that May and the EU drafted. The potential for demagoguery around a second vote is enormous.

If a second vote is agreed, all sides will battle over how it’s framed. The answer will be “Yes” or “No,” but what will be the question?

If only democracy’s election apparatus could accommodate something other than a binary choice. Decision-making among intelligent people is always a nuanced endeavor. It’s too bad we can’t do the same when our decisions are made collectively.

With Frohnmayer’s STAR voting model, Brits could weigh in on several alternatives at once. Some like everything about May’s plan except how it handles the Irish border. Some would prefer to follow Norway’s path, preserving economic ties with the EU, but not much else. Some would rather see Britain crash out of the union quickly than watch leaders wring their hands over the details.

With STAR Voting, everyone could choose all the alternatives they like even a little, giving leaders a clear picture of which plan makes the most sense to the most people. That would give everyone what they need — a path forward.

Instead, what we’ll likely see is a simple vote to address a complex issue. Voters won’t feel heard, because any nuanced or middle solution they may prefer will not appear on their ballots. This wasn’t a dangerous problem when elected officials could craft compromises between themselves, but that ship has apparently sailed.

Binary voting makes simpletons of us all, but it has especially enfeebled democracy’s leaders.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Oregonians Are Sturdy

April 26th, 2019 by dk
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Oregonians are a sturdy bunch. During the flash floods this week, how many strangers appeared with a winch, ready to pull somebody away from peril? The snowstorms in late February left many without power for a week or longer, and yet not a single death has been attributed to the storms.

Last month, Jeremy Taylor and his vehicle was stuck in the snow for five days on a desolated road near Bend. Taylor survived on taco sauce, according to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. I’ve lived in places where people want to call 9-1-1 from a drive-thru lane when they can’t open their fast food flavor packets. Oregonians can live on them, when they need to.

Compare this to other regions of the country. Mudslides in California, heat waves in Chicago, tornadoes in Alabama, blizzards in the upper Midwest — these stories invariably end with body counts. It seems every winter, a dementia patient in Minnesota or Michigan dies from a trek to the mailbox wearing slippers.

Oregonians are made of tough stuff. Volunteers happily do rigorous and dangerous work. Ski patrols rescue hikers in the mountains. Chainsaw gangs clear paths in the woods after a windstorm. Neighbors gather every weekend to remove blackberry roots from a local cemetery. The Owen Rose Garden hosts a monthly work party to keep it looking just so.

SOLVE Oregon has coordinated volunteer efforts to clean beaches and riversides around the state for 50 years. Last month, 5,000 volunteers picked up over 10 tons of litter and marine debris along all 362 miles of our coastline. For many Oregonians, the biannual cleanups have become a family tradition.

The Willamette National Forest covers more than 2,500 square miles of central Oregon, including almost a million acres in Lane County. After the recent snowstorms felled thousands of trees, forest officials came up with a brilliant plan to clear out a good bit of that deadwood.

They doubled the amount of permitted firewood Oregonians are allowed for forage from the forest floor, increasing the limit this year to 12 cords. Harvesters pay $10 per cord, which amounts to two pickup truckloads. There’s no extra charge for the mind-clearing retreat in the forest.

Oregonians who heat with wood and drive a pickup truck know a bargain when they see one, but so does the forest maintenance staff, according to their announcement. “It is a cost-effective way to collect firewood and will help us reopen roads sooner and remove downed wood that could later dry out and become fuel for wildfires.”

Last year, the forest yielded more than 2,000 cords of personal firewood. This year especially, there’s plenty more where that came from. In what other state can government outsource some of its maintenance work and charge anyone with a pickup truck and a free day for the privilege?

Officials caution residents to use extra precaution when traveling forest roads. Snow loads can shift quickly, and road conditions may deteriorate unexpectedly. Bring extra blankets and water. In case there isn’t a winch-wielding stranger nearby to help, keep some ketchup packets in your truck.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Happiness: We’ve Swapped Eudemonia For Bliss

April 26th, 2019 by dk
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I seem to have a theme going about words whose meaning has changed since our country was founded, so let’s talk about something that might be more relevant to you than high crimes or misdemeanors (which used to mean failure of duty, not minor infractions.)

If you’ve wondered why happiness is so hard to hold onto, it’s worth knowing that happiness wasn’t regarded as a possession at all until about a century ago. Happiness, to our Founding Fathers, was synonymous with “living a good life.” Happiness was more a verb than a noun. The concept was rooted in a term Aristotle favored: eudemonia.

You may not know that word, but you know its cousin: pandemonium, which means, literally, “all little spirits” or movement in all directions. Eudemonia means “good spirit” or striving for good. That’s what happiness meant in 17776.

So when Thomas Jefferson was writing our Declaration of Independence, he thought he was improving on Locke’s 1689 “Two Treatises of Government.” Locke had his own trinity of inalienable rights: life, liberty, and property. Jefferson knew that property rights were already a flashpoint in colonial America, so he subbed in “the pursuit of happiness.”

As long as happiness was measured as striving for the (spiritual, higher, common) good, all was well. The government’s role was to protect its citizens’ lives, their freedoms, and their ability to strive for a common good.

If supporting the welfare of others was what every American wanted to do, government’s involvement can be very limited. Every American should contribute his or her own eudemonia — striving for good. Jefferson’s goal was to make government as irrelevant as possible to its citizens.

Alas, words change. And people do too. Sometimes people change words, but more often words change people.

Happiness started as an elegant encapsulation of the democratic ideal. If we’re all looking out for one another, no tyranny could ever take hold. We affirmed in our founding documents that we were all equal and together, striving for good.

But democracy didn’t give us rapid economic growth. Capitalism did. So “happiness” was taken over and redefined by the mercantile class, to sell its goods. Everybody wants to feel happy. In fact, hadn’t we been promised exactly that? Wasn’t government required to give us everything we desire?

Property, from Locke’s pen, was self-limiting. It was possible to have too much property, as American soldiers showed King George III. Happiness, at least in the modern sense, is not self-limiting. Nobody ever believes they have too much of it.

This points to a gripe I have with the so-called Happiness Index. What pollsters are able to measure and call happiness is really more accurately described as the absence of envy.

Cultures with less economic diversity are the places where people report more happiness. Rich Scandinavian countries and poor Latin American countries score near the top. What matters isn’t wealth. It’s whether commonalities with peers are keenly felt. That was America once. Today’s America is less happy in the modern sense because we’ve stopped striving for the common good, which was America’s first definition of happiness.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Trump Can Be Impeached for What He Has Failed to Do

April 26th, 2019 by dk
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Now that Robert Mueller’s [redacted] report has become available for all [redacted] eyes to see, we can look for ward to weeks or months of speculation about what the report has revealed, and what the redactions continue to conceal.

The president’s detractors will be searching for direct evidence to prove the specific causes for impeachment required by Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution: “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Most are looking for “high crimes,” but it’s this president’s “misdemeanors” that are in clearest view.

To the framers of the Constitution, misdemeanors were not barely criminal actions like shoplifting or jaywalking. In fact, misdemeanors did not represent actions at all. “Misdemeanor” in 1789 meant “failure to fulfill one’s duties.” It meant not showing up for work, not taking seriously one’s obligations.

The definition follows an ideal expressed in traditional confessional prayers, asking forgiveness for “what we have done, and … what we have left undone.” Good deeds purposely left undone were misdemeanors, and they were as invidious as high crimes, when judging a president’s fitness for office.

President Trump makes no effort to conceal his misdemeanors. Mr. Trump has visited one of his golf courses, or played golf elsewhere, 182 times since becoming President. That’s roughly every fourth day since he moved into the Oval Office. His daily appointment calendar was recently leaked, showing plenty of “executive time” when he was in the residence watching television — and very few meetings — on most days.

We’ve had presidents who napped during the day and it didn’t stop the government from running, because the executive branch of our government is staffed with thousands of presidential appointees. Hundreds of those positions have been left vacant by this president, with no apparent intention to fill them.

Half a dozen senior staff and cabinet posts are being filled right now by those who have the word “Acting” in front of their title. Mike Mulvaney was already a cabinet secretary as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, but he is also now moonlighting as Trump’s Acting Chief of Staff. The president is purposely bypassing the scrutiny of the Senate’s advise and consent, which the Constitution requires.

Trump has allowed the government’s longest shutdown in history. He has threatened to close entire federal agencies, and the nation’s southern border — without the support of Congress. He has instructed his Justice Department to not defend laws that were passed by Congress. His Treasury Department refuses to hand over his tax returns, flouting an unambiguous law that has been on the books for nearly a century.

He hasn’t divested his business interests, tempting foreign powers to stay at his hotels to curry favor. He has overruled professionals and his own top advisors to give security clearances to his children and two dozen others who were not deemed qualified. He ignores laws, professional advice, legal counsel, administrative rules, and accepted practices whenever he chooses.

Long story short, he’s less culpable for what he has done than for what he has left undone. No one needs to look behind the [redacted] redactions to see that.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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